The golden locks may be gone, but his confidence still burns bright.
Ole Miss redshirt sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace has built a bit of an image for himself in the Southeastern Conference. He was the Rebels’ blonde, long-haired passer who entered the program and injected life into an offense that was looking for answers.
He’s still all of these things –– minus the hair length.
“The hair got in the way a bit, so I felt like it was time to cut it,” Wallace said. “I don’t really have any superstition with it. Actually, the team has more superstition with it than I do.”
It wasn’t just his physical appearance that made Wallace a household name in Oxford, Miss. The fact that he has led the Rebels to five victories is a story all in itself.
Many projected Ole Miss to finish last in the SEC West, with some writers throwing out record predictions that totaled three wins. Some analysts even called the Rebels a one-win squad.
The preseason roster had its share of battles heading into the 2012 campaign, but the quarterback spot garnered the most attention.
Wallace and teammate Barry Brunetti battled for the starting job, but Wallace nabbed the spot.
After being named the starting quarterback in August, Wallace had to lead a program that was 2-10 in 2011 into a new era.
“I’ve had to adjust to the speed of the game,” Wallace said. “This is my first year playing in the SEC, and obviously it’s a lot faster than what I played against last year [in junior college]. Having to play these big teams like Texas and Alabama made it tough at first.”
Wallace came out firing in his first game against Central Arkansas, completing 20-of-24 passes for 264 yards and two scores.
He saved his best performances for Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, as he passed for a combined 708 yards and two scores.
Looking back, Wallace wasn’t a player who many Division I scouts had on their watch lists despite his impressive numbers at Giles County High School in Pulaski, Tenn.
“During his junior year, we basically had no receivers, and he and his running back both had over 1,000 yards rushing,” said David O’Connor, Wallace’s coach at Giles County. “As a sophomore, he threw for almost 2,000 yards. When I couldn’t get anybody to recruit him, I thought to myself, ‘I must be the craziest guy in the world.’”
Giles County’s coach saw Wallace’s potential early on in his career.
“I saw the intangibles,” O’Connor said. “His work ethic and how he played the game was off the charts. I’ve never seen anyone like him. No one has ever had the same physical attributes that he has.”
Wallace found himself at Arkansas State after his senior season, only to leave a year later for the JUCO ranks at East Mississippi Community College, where he led the Lions to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship.
He also set the NJCAA single-season record for most passing yards (4,604), total offensive yards (4,810) and most touchdowns thrown (53).
It wasn’t long before Ole Miss offered the JUCO star a scholarship.
Wallace draws motivation from his SEC opponents. His rival schools overlooked him in high school, and he still hasn’t forgotten.
“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t really looked at by anybody in the SEC, so I’m always playing with a chip on my shoulder,” Wallace said. “I always have something to prove when I go out there.”
Now Wallace prepares to march into Tiger Stadium, where more than 92,000 fans intend to make the Ole Miss passer feel as uncomfortable as possible during the four-quarter affair.
But Wallace said he doesn’t feel intimidated.
“I don’t really ever go into a game nervous,” Wallace said. “You don’t get many opportunities to play in big-time environments like this, so you take it all in pregame, realize how special it is, and then once the ball is kicked off, you go back to playing football.”
Wallace knows a hungry LSU defense will be waiting for him in Baton Rouge this weekend, and he has one goal in mind.
“I’m going out and trying to win a football game and get this team bowl-eligible,” Wallace said. “That’s the main thing on my mind right now.”